May 24, 2007

The Rhymes of "Spring"

Peter Filichia is pretty much right about the lyrics for Spring Awakening, but he's not the only critic who had a problem with them.
UPDATE: I should clarify that I don't think false rhymes are the problem, or are in any the reason show allegedly hasn't "connected" with audiences, as Filichia speculates. Steeped in pop music as I am, I'm agnostic on the question of perfect rhymes; I honestly don't think "fine" and "time," "home" and "alone," to give two innocuous examples, really trip up anyone's ears. (OK, personally, I think if you're going to rhyme at all, why not make the extra effort? But I'm not a stickler about it--even the masterful Elvis C. doesn't always pass muster on this point, rhyming "Chopin" and "open," etc.) The only measure that matters in musical theater is how the lyrics work theatrically, whether they land in the playing, and on first hearing--and by those lights, I found Steven Sater's a little watery and awkwardly slangy, in a faux-youthful way. On repeated hearings, I imagine they reveal many more layers, but that's true of a lot of pop music we like at first listen mainly for the music, only to absorb the full import of the lyrics later. To their credit, the makers of Spring Awakening clearly set out to experiment with the way music works and doesn't work in conjunction with dramatic material, and for my money it's a great try, and pretty exciting on many levels. But lyrically, not so much. Frankly, the original Wedekind play is what impressed me the most--and anyone in the vicinity of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in late June will have a chance to reevaluate the original.


Steve On Broadway (SOB) said...

Ron, I've linked over to your review of Spring Awakening, as well as Peter Filichia's story.

I'm wondering out loud whether Spring sprang out of the gates too early and is already peaking. Surely there must be plenty of Tony voters who feel the same way?

marcus J. said...

I don't think Peter is right about Spring's lyrics at all. I find them beautiful, poetic and complicated. They engage me intellectually in ways that traditional musical theatre lyrics have not been able to, particularly in more poetic songs like The Song of Purple Summer. Peter is making a fuss about the lyrics not having perfect rhymes, but I would take Spring's lyrics over the predictable rhymes in Curtains or the forced rhymes in Legally Blonde any day. Does everyone remember the first time they learned that poems didn't need to rhyme? For me, that was a moment of enlightenment, and I wish Peter and traditionalists like him could have had the same awakening.